Women's rights to express milk at the workplace


Current employment law requires employers to provide a private place for lactating women to express breast milk at their work place.


Attorney Travis Hollifield: One of the emerging things in my practice that I’m seeing more and more calls relates to working women who’ve had a baby, or have chosen to breastfeed that child. After having a maternity leave or a family medical leave act period, wants to come into the office and be able to express milk for her child, and needs the necessary breaktime and facilities in order to do that. There's this emerging protection that’s coming out for working women that’s known as lactation discrimination. That’s when employers use that protected trait of a woman against her, and choose to either terminate or do something that’s adverse to the female in the workplace, because of that.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Whatever laws there are that might protect a woman under those circumstances, would they be state Florida laws or would they be federal laws?

Attorney Travis Hollifield: Both. The federal law protections fall under two statutes known as title seven, and the pregnancy discrimination act. Those are the two primary federal statutes that provide protections. There's another one strangely enough and many of your listeners may have heard of the fair labor standard acts, which is a statute that governs minimum wage and over time. But interestingly enough and frankly strangely enough several years ago when the affordable care act or Obama care was enacted, it actually added some protection with respect to lactation discrimination to the fair labor standard act as well. Those are the primary federal statutes that provide protections for women that need to express breast milk in the workplace.

Attorney Tom Olsen: I know that you call this women being able to lactate or express milk in the workplace, you call this cutting edge, where were we a few years a go and where are we today?

Attorney Travis Hollifield: Well a few years ago there simply was not any legal protection for working women that needed to express milk in the workplace. There was arguably some protection in a Florida statute that still on the books, Florida statute that came in the early 1990s, that allows women to breastfeed their children, anywhere otherwise they have a right to be. But there was no remedy available for women that had to use that statute for protection. Since there was no remedy there really was not a lot of cases that developed around that theory.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Are there some lawsuits that are going on where women are pursuing their right to express milk in the workplace, and are there some results coming from those lawsuits?

Attorney Travis Hollifield: Sure. Over the last two or three years, since these protections have become more of a focus of both federal and state courts and frankly the EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we're seeing more cases both locally and on a nationwide basis where women are standing up for themselves and their rights in the workplace, and asking for reasonable breaktime and reasonably private facilities other than a bathroom to be able o express milk for their child. Some employers are accommodating and some are not, and the ones that are not are usually subjected to these adversarial disputes.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Very good, very interesting. Hey folks my guest today is Travis Hollifield, he is an employment law attorney right here in Orlando.